Dasmira Alvandi is an educational leader and 3-5 room leader at Hillsong Child Care Centre in Baulkham Hills, NSW. With a Master’s degree in early childhood (birth to 5 years) from Western Sydney University, Dasmira has worked in early childhood education since 2015. She has engaged in a variety of different professional development opportunities, including STEM workshops, which has helped her develop opportunities for STEM in the service’s program, learning experiences and routines.
Dasmira’s professional interests include engaging in arts and craft with children, giving them the opportunity to express themselves in a variety of different ways. Dasmira enjoys engaging with children in the preschool years and has enjoyed seeing their ability to ask questions and show interest in investigating these through play and spontaneous and planned experiences. Dasmira’s educational approach is to ensure that all children have equal opportunities as she believes that a huge part of her role is to be inclusive and adaptive to children’s needs, abilities, cultures and interests.
Driven by her interest in the natural environment and exploring different science concepts with children, Dasmira enjoys the process and journey in STEM exploration with children. She believes that STEM is important in early childhood education because it provides children in the early years with opportunities to engage in exploration, research, problem-solving, creativity, inquiry, investigation and more. “These aspects of learning are fundamental for children’s development and learning outcomes,” Dasmira says, “STEM promotes understanding in key learning areas that are essential for their future in primary school and in their everyday lives.”
Dasmira experiences inquiry-based learning in STEM as exciting and freeing. Children can freely explore and use trial and error to investigate their ideas about a topic. They can use their own ways of thinking and express themselves in the process. Children have shown excitement and joy when finding answers and when problem-solving, Dasmira has observed. The process of investigation in STEM has shown that children are able to build resilience, persistence, confidence, risk-taking, engage positively in shared experiences with others, think critically, reflect, and display respect and awareness of their natural environments and more. These qualities in children are fundamental for their wellbeing, development and future.
Dasmira attended the STEM Hour on bush tucker run by Little Scientists this year to assist her service in developing its own bush tucker garden with a Landcare Australia grant the service has received. After the webinar, educators reflected on the importance of collaborating with an Aboriginal Elder in the community who could provide guidance and valuable information regarding the appropriate bush tucker for the local area and community. Dasmira says hearing Aunty May, a member of the webinar panel, speak about the special connection bush tucker has to Country and the Elders, highlighted the importance of collaborating with Aboriginal Elders in the community.
Dasmira explains that the bush tucker garden initiative ties in with the children’s interest and knowledge of Australian animals and Country and is an extension of the NAIDOC week theme, Heal Country! Dasmira describes that the children have been engaged in art and craft experiences, creating an ‘animals around the billabong’ scene on their classroom wall to which they add their individually crafted Australian native animals. This has led to children discussing the importance of trees for koalas and the role they play in ensuring that trees are kept in the bush for koalas to have food. Dasmira and her colleagues are continuing to link these conversation to Heal Country!, talking about respecting and valuing nature and explaining the responsibilities we all have in taking care of our natural environment.
Another inspiring STEM experience with the children came after an incursion with Hayley from Little Scientists sparked the children’s curiosity about space. To investigate their questions about gravity, the children engaged in a variety of experiments, testing their hypotheses using problem-solving and trial and error. These experiments developed into a child-led project exploring gravity, weight, mass and displacement.
Dasmira enjoys the moments when she observes children discovering the joys of STEM as in this example of a child who was engaged in an experiment testing his hypotheses on floating and sinking using paper, tinfoil and marbles in a tub of water. Sitting in a group with three peers, the child first used a paper boat and the children observed that the paper boat was sinking because it was absorbing water. The child watched with amazement and studied the boat after taking it out of the water. He then immediately created a tinfoil boat and tested it in the water and was intrigued when it didn’t absorb the water. Dasmira was happy to observe the child’s persistence in investigating his observation and shared his discovery with his peers.
When engaging in STEM exploration, Dasmira encourages the children to:
- explore freely
- use recyclable or natural materials
- share their ideas and thoughts openly
- have shared group experiences
- test their hypotheses
- use trial and error
- use their creativity.
To guide the children in their scientific research and discovery, Dasmira researches the children’s ideas alongside them, provides them with the tools, materials and resources that they need and scaffolds and extends on their learning, curiosity and ideas. She believes that her role is to model curiosity and acknowledge that she does not have all the answers but to reassure the children that they can try to find them together.
In a rapidly changing world, Dasmira finds it important that educators teach children about the importance of the natural world and how to be responsible for their environment. She believes that in the future, STEM education will be valuable to children’s learning, wellbeing and development. She thinks that it is important for children to engage in the learning and developmental opportunities STEM provides and believes that inquiry-based learning prepares them for the future.